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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Never Say Never Again (Collectors Edition) [Blu-ray]

 

(Irvin Kershner, 1983)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Taliafilm

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 134 min

Chapters: 32

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 24, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 35 Mbps

 

Audio:

English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; English Dolby Surround; Spanish & French mono.

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean & Thai

 

Extras:

• The Big Gamble (16:24)

• Sean is Back (8:04)

• The Girls of Never Say Never Again (10:07)

• Theatrical Trailer (in 1.33:1)

• Photo Gallery

 

 

The Film:

Never Say Never Again is probably more famous for its title and the circumstances of its coming about than it is for its substance. Sean Connery's last film for Eon and "Cubby" Broccoli was Diamonds Are Forever, a forgettable film and one that Connery famously vowed would be his last as 007. He was then 41 and had already made his mark as an actor in such disparate movies as Marnie, The Hill, A Fine Madness, The Molly Maguires and The Anderson Tapes, so he wasn't, or needn't have been, fearful of being typecast so much as needing the space to continue to find new work. And while Zardoz would suggest to the world he might have made a mistake, Murder on the Orient Express, The Wind and the Lion and The Man Who Would Be King were all reassuring evidence.

Still, his fans and other forces were at busily working in the background to get Connery back in Her Majesty's Service, which he finally did in 1983 for the cleverly – if not at all Flemingly - titled Never Say Never Again. By this time, Fleming had been dead nearly twenty years and all his book titles had been spoken for and had already appeared as movies with either Connery, Roger Moore or George Lazenby or were in production. The Living Daylights would soon appear with a new Bond altogether, Timothy Dalton. As we learn from the commentary and the bonus features, the producers of Never Say Never Again were, as the result of a suit brought by Brocolli, required to stick to the novel Thunderball without duplicating the previous movie. This shouldn't as difficult as might seem since the 1965 movie had veered dramatically from the plot of the book.

The story behind the story is perhaps even more interesting than either of the two Thunderballs. It seems that one Kevin McClory had been approached Fleming in the late 1950s even before Broccoli and Satzman. They were keen on making a new Bond story, which eventually became "Thunderball." An agreement was reached with Broccoli, once Dr. No and From Russia With Love were proved successful, that Brocolli could produce Thunderball but that rights to the story would revert to McClory after ten years if he so chose. Broccoli agreed, thinking that no one would want to remake a movie so close on the heels of the first one. Wrong! Another court fight, and Never Say Never Again was the result, though without John Barry's music (a serious blow to the new movie, it turned out) or any of the other production crew already in place for the Roger Moore movies.

 


 

Image:

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Compared to other Blu-ray movies, image quality for Never Say Never Again is unremarkable. Except for some print damage that shows up now and again, I expect it represents the theatrical intentions of the movie quite well. As shot, the movie is fairly uninteresting – thinnish, grainy (as shot) and gray, with respectable blacks, though the transfer is sharp and sufficiently detailed and without annoying artifacts or enhancements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 6/6
The uncompressed DTS HD-MA mix both clarifies and enriches the dynamics and texture of what we've had presented on video until now. Dialogue and music are properly situated in the front, with some ambiance and effects nicely mixed into the surrounds. Sadly, the usually reliable and creative composer Michel Legrand missed his mark.

 

 

Operations: 7
The menu is remarkably simple, if not just as remarkably uninteresting. I like that the thumbnails are titled in easy to read pop-ups. No details are offered for any of the bonus features, however.

 

 

 

Extras: 6
The commentary was recorded in or around 2006. A good deal of it is covered in the two good quality standard definition featurettes (The Big Gamble and Sean is Back) which I felt were more lively than the commentary. In the commentary Kershner seemed to want to get on with his story, so Bond historian Steven Jay Rubin's attempts at dialog seemed more like interruptions. Much of "The Big Gamble" concentrates on the court case and how it affected the screenplay and production, which was in no small degree. A good deal of blame was passed from one participant in the matter to another. Kershner himself even admitted to having eventually gotten bored with it. "Sean is Back" goes into the circumstances of Connery's return to the role, as expected. "The Girls of Never Say Never Again" is a fairly candid look at the four main actresses who had a speaking or kissing role opposite Connery. With the exception of Kim Basinger, these were all interviews with the actresses themselves. Kim's story was told from the perspective of Kershner and a few others. It appears she didn't have a good time. The theatrical trailer is not only presented in standard definition, it is 4:3.

 

 

Bottom line: 7
It may not be an Eon Production, and the absence of John Barry music is sorely felt, but Never Say Never Again is no less good than your typical James Bond movie once past Goldfinger and until Goldeneye. Surely it is more memorable (if such a term could be said to apply) than Roger Moore's Octopussy released in the same year. The Blu-ray looks and sounds pretty good and the extra features address the questions we want to know about.

Leonard Norwitz
March 26th, 2009

 

 

 

 

 


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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